Saturday, November 13, 2010

I just wanted to put up a tent. That's all.

On Saturday, I left Wichita Falls early in the morning. They kick everyone out of the homeless shelter at 5:30 in the morning. Man! That was easily the earliest that I had woken up on the trip. But, I guess it was good to get an early start to the day. I hit the road at around dawn, although I stopped on the outside of the city to get some food.
The day was beautiful, but it felt long. Very long. I made it about halfway, and I just wanted to sleep. No more biking. And I caved. I found a park and passed out on a bench for an hour. It felt heavenly, like everything was all right. But then I had to keep riding....

I rolled into Gainesville, TX well after dark that night, and started asking around for a place to camp out. I ended up going to the McDonald's in town to get warm for a while, and I ran into a few policemen. I started chatting with one of them, who actually worked in a neighboring town. He was super helpful. He asked the police from Gainesville where I could stay, and they flat out denied permission to camp out anywhere in town, effectively saying that I'd have to go to another town to find a place to stay. Not very comforting when you have to bike to the next town. Kinda irritating, to be honest. There has to be somewhere in town where I can put up a tent. But the first cop was at least sympathetic, and bought me dinner at McDonald's! Another act of kindness that I in no way deserved, from a complete stranger. My irritation abated.

He told me that the best place to stay would be a rest area off of the interstate a few miles up the road. I was kind of irked that the only option for me was miles out of town, but when that's all you have..... I started riding up the interstate, looking for a rest area, and I kept riding and riding. I was so tired, but the 5 miles I rode felt like 20, and I lost my patience real quick. But I found it, and then I realized that I had to walk my bike across the four lanes of interstate to get there – another little thing making my night just that much longer.

When I finally get to the rest area, I find a spot to camp out, and have dinner (it's midnight by this point). As I'm unpacking, a security guard walks up and asks what I'm doing. I explain my situation, and in a very matter-of-fact voice tells me that I can't pitch a tent there. What?! I was getting right out angry. The police had sent me there, who I'm sure meant well, and I now I can't even stay there? The security guard told me that I could lay out my sleeping back and sleep outside, just without a tent. State law, apparently. So, all the truckers could park there and sleep for the night, but a person on a bike couldn't put up his tent? He apologized, and I could tell he was just doing his job, no personal animosity towards me. Still, I was ticked off.
After eating dinner and stewing in my anger, I took my tent and gear to the other side of the frontage road, hoping I was out of sight, and camped by the road. Honestly, I slightly hoped that the security guard would give me trouble, just so I could give him a piece of my mind. Which I know isn't right, but I was tired and fed up. But I slept well, thankfully.

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